Why do we need to justify the Pandavas’ actions? Isn’t “Krishna told them to do it” enough reason?

by Chaitanya Charan dasAugust 8, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcribed by: Argha Maji

Question: Why do we need to justify the Pandavas’ actions? Isn’t Krishna told them to do it enough reason?

Answer: Yes and no. Yes in the sense that yes whatever Krishna tells is the highest morality. And the Bhagavad Gita also talks about

sarva-dharman parityajya

mam ekam saranam vraja (BG 18.66)

Krishna tells Arjuna to give up all varieties of religion and surrender unto Him. So the Pandavas doing activities that seem unethical , say Arjuna shooting Karna when he was off the chariot on the ground. Or Bhima hitting Duryodhana below the thigh, so these are manifestations of the supreme devotion to Krishna that they were ready to give up even dharma because Krishna told them to do it. So yes, in that sense we can say that these are demonstrating sarva-dharman parityajya verse of the Bhagavad Gita.

But at the same time we also need to understand the mood of the Mahabharat. The Mahabharat as a full book is a search for dharma. What is dharma ? And dharma is subtle. That is what Bhishma says, Yudisthira says and that is what is repeatedly pointed out in the Mahabharat. But we look at the Mb’s example itself. Krishna does say sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja but does Krishna in the mb expect everyone to be satisfied just by that reason. When Karna tells Arjuna, “Do not shoot me when I am on the ground. So remember virtue and act according to virtue.” So what does Krishna say? Krishna says,”Oh Karna, what is my command is supreme. Arjuna will kill you.” No, Krishna knows that there are people who are not having as much faith in him as the Pandavas have. And he wants actions to be intelligible to them also. And that’s why Krishna gives reasons. Krishna tells Karna,”Oh you are remembering virtue now.” And gives all the many occasions when Karna paid no heed to virtue. Therefore he says,”If this is the virtue that you are talking about, then by that same virtue Arjuna will kill you today.” So, similarly when Bhima hits Duryodhana below the thigh , at that time both Balaram and Duryodhana accuse that Bhima has cheated and this happened at the instigation of Krishna. So, Balaram says angrily that Bhima has cheated. And what does Krishna tell Balaram? “Its my will, so its absolute”. No, Krishna reasons with Balarama and explains. Similarly when Duryodhana accuses Krishna of wickedness , then Krishna counters by giving reasons of how Duryodhana’s wickedness only came back to him in this form. So he simply reaped the seeds that he has shown.

So basically if we look at Krishna’s example, then we see this dual level of reasoning. For those who are faithful, those who have come to the level of or those who want to come to the level of sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja Krishna uses the Pandavas to demonstrate this truth of being willing to give up dharma for the sake of supreme dharma of surrendering to Krishna. But then for those who are not ready to accept that logic of lofty level of dharma then Krishna does reason to explain in terms that they can understand. We live in a world where most people don’t have faith in the absolute authority of Krishna. Even people who know Krishna and accept Krishna as some way divine, even they find these actions objectionable.

So the purpose of education is elevation not just some dogmatic insistence on a principle that is incomprehensible to people. As devotees we understand why did Arjuna do like this, yes because Krishna wanted them to do it. But then for those who do not have that much faith, by saying that Krishna is the absolute authority we will actually alienate them from Krishna further. Not only will we alienate them from Krishna but we will alienate them from those who could explain them about Krishna.

Therefore we should follow Krishna’s example in the Mahabharat and reason and explain how the pandavas actions were reasonable. So they were warranted responses to the unwarranted injustices and wickedness that had been done against them by the Kauravas. So this sort of reasoning is also in following with Krishna’s example in the Mahabharata and it is especially meant for those who are not having faith in Krishna absolute authority and gradually as they understand Krishna more, initially their initial suspicions about Krishna if they are clarified by showing how those seemingly unethical and immoral actions are justifiable, then they become more open minded to understand about Krishna and then they understand Krishna’s message, Krishna’s position and then when they understand Krishna’s transcendental absolute authority , then they will accept that authority and then they will come to the level of understanding Pandavas’ actions as demonstrations of sarva-dharman parityajya. And they will accept the logic that whatever Krishna does is final, whatever Krishna tells is the final authority and that’s what we should be doing. So we cannot expect people who are not even in kindergarten to accept the postdoctoral logic of Krishna’s words being the absolute morality. We have to talk about morality in their terms and gradually elevate them to the highest understanding. Thank you. Hare Krishna.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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